BaxterStorey chief executive John Bennett has predicted that employees will be hungry for a return to office-based social environments when home working begins to decline later this year.
In an interview conducted by his joint chief executive Noel Mahony for Food Service Circle, a platform created by caterers to offer support to those who have lost their jobs as a result of the economic fallout caused by Covid-19, Bennett said that he expected "offices pretty full by the end of the year".
He said: "What we're seeing with our clients is mixed. Amazon has been full on; we've had to hire people and Amazon themselves has offered additional pay to staff as they have been so busy. But we have other sectors that are slow to return. I do see all these sectors coming back in their own way. But I feel it will be a more elongated process than we first thought."
Bennett believes that the UK will follow the lead of France, where he said that 70% of employees had already returned to offices.
He added: "Looking at our numbers now in Northern Ireland we've got 62% of our customers back, whereas Scotland it's 25%.
"Definitely regionally it's different. We're seeing the north being more positive in the numbers returning. There's a lot more production and a lot more activity there in the economy. Whereas in the south where people are more office based they're slower to come back."
When employees do return, Bennett said that they would be more likely to use the social areas of offices to make up for the engagement missing when working from home.
He said: "Though working from home has its place – and maybe more so in the future – the need to actually meet people is even more important when you're working from home. And therefore meeting people in social environments helps create the buzz and energy that companies need to survive."